Views in brief
A victory for Jateik Reed
JATEIK REED, the victim of an outrageous police beating in the Bronx ("Anger in the Bronx at police"), won an important victory in court when District Attorney Robert Johnson's office voluntarily dismissed all charges against Reed in connection with the beating.
The charges included two assault charges, three drug possession charges and harassment. In a courtroom packed with Jateik's supporters and news media, the assistant district attorney admitted that his office could find not prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite the obviously wrongful arrest, the cops who beat and arrested Jateik remain on paid leave.
There is little doubt that community protests, the massive presence of Jateik's supporters in court and the media attention resulting from the online video showing the beating were decisive in this case. Without them, the cops would have been free to testify however they pleased, and Jateik would have been just another Black youth brutalized, railroaded and imprisoned.
A charge of robbery against Jateik remains. That charge was brought the day after Jateik's beating. His next court date is April 27. Jateik's lawyer is reported to have stated that he intends to file a civil lawsuit against the police department and the city.
Wally Showman, from the Internet
The problems with the "precariat" theory
THANKS TO the authors for this article ("The rise of the 'precariat'?"). The point made that some of the amazement at changes in working-class composition reflect worries on the part of academics about their own proletarianization and precariazation is well taken, and I say this as a precarious academic myself.
With all respect to the power of mass civil disobedience from outside the traditional workplace, and it is a legitimate point that this power needs to be taken more seriously, it is irritating to read sophisticated thinkers who are convinced that workplace struggle is no longer effective, including the cited author Gayatri Spivak.
At root is the idea that, as Spivak is quoted as arguing, the rise of finance meant that the links in the chain of surplus value production and work were snapped (somewhere between 1973 and 1979 presumably)--that is, the law of value no longer operates and so capital is free to produce profits almost at will.
Remarkably, the obvious reality that capital since at least 2008 (and clearly since the so-called "Asian Financial Crisis" of 1997 and, more to the point, since 1973 or earlier) has had difficulty generating profits--that is, that capitalist crisis still occurs--does not seem to phase these postmodern approaches. Financial operations, as Braudel and Arrighi seemed to grasp and yet were unable to fully understand, are indeed an escape by capital from its enslavement to the working class--that is, its need for living labor to work and produce the surplus value that is and remains the source of all profit.
Those two more profound, and materialist as well as historical, thinkers did understand the escape part, but did not fully see that finance can only be a temporary fix. It is as if capital goes up in a hot-air balloon for a while, leaving workers to fend for themselves so as to break their resistance to exploitation. But without fresh infusions of hot air--of living labor and surplus value, the balloon must fizzle out and crash to earth.
That is what has really happened in the past four years. As Chinese workers made clear that investments in production of surplus value there (and one wonders whether the postmodernists would acknowledge the efficacy of strikes at least in China?) are not as safe as once thought, and the crash of 2008 showed that investing in U.S. real estate and the securities derivatives based on them--precisely so as to avoid employing workers on a large scale with all the workers power this entails--was not something that could bear profits endlessly.
Sooner or later, the profits in finance and real estate sectors are merely transfers of surplus value produced in other sectors of the economy, as Marx shows in Capital Volume Three. The air went out of the balloon.
The Iraq war failed to result in a new center of profitable investment. Nothing has worked really because, sooner or later, capital must decide to settle somewhere--for the moment, China, but workers' rising wages and struggles there are making that problematic--and employ workers to produce value. When that happens, workers are powerful enough at that point to throw the whole shebang into turmoil.
To be sure, to end it requires more than a general strike at the waged workplaces, and the community struggle, where the reproduction of labor power and therefore social life is fought over and the new forms of direct democracy that must interact with, transcend and include the workplace are central to creating a non-capitalist world.
But I agree strongly that we must not cut the cord that not only anchors capital to the working class--so that even the most esoteric financial profit making must rely on someone somewhere being exploited--but also that ties us as Marxist thinkers and actors to reality, so we do not fall into the fanciful ideas that result from liberating capital from the working class in theory, and thereby making it harder for us to imagine how to liberate ourselves from it.
Steven Colatrella, Padua, Italy
Give the general strike a chance
IN RESPONSE to "A strike call that won't call a strike": The author states that he might have expressed his viewpoint "if the facilitators had taken measures to ensure that opposing views were at least more proportionally represented. "
Might I point out that this was our third GA talking about this proposal. In addition, at the previous GA, there were four "blocks" that were not really what would be a legitimate block--i.e., they did not point out it was against the fundamental principles of why we were there. Also, at that meeting, there were no holds on time. The clock was run on because this was contentious. We do not operate on consensus, but we tried to do something very close to it and let the stack go on and on, so everyone felt heard.
The argument Dan Trocolli gave was given actually the GA before that. I know it is hard to lose when you think a general strike is not the right step. I can see that. I think things are getting so re-defined that the moment is defining things beyond the traditional meanings. It is one barreling train. It amazes me, too.
I went to the Bring Diaz Down events. I would not have believed that an event that bold was possible if I hadn't been in it. Nothing is going back to the way it was. Just hang on. Watch these kids move. They are making a new path. It gets messy. It doesn't matter. It is so alive, and it succeeds.
Carol Isaac, Seattle
Condolences on the death of a comrade
I AM very sorry to hear of Josh Brielmaier's untimely death ("Dedicated to the struggle"). We communicated during the sit-in at Kohl's office and at a Socialism conference a couple times. A good comrade. Presente!
Ron Jacobs, Burlington, Vt.